31 December 2009

Happy New Year 2010!

As 2009 draws to a close and 2010 is on the horizon, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year 2010! And as they say in Slovenian, Rad bi zaželel vsem srečno novo leto 2010!

I am amazed that the first ten years of the new millenium have gone by so quickly - to me it seems like 2000 was just like yesterday. But we have seen a lot happen during these past ten years: The day America was attacked on 9/11/2001 is the biggest event that will be on our minds as a part of American history.

Moreover, in August 2004 we in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area held our breath and wondered if our area would be devastated as Hurricane Charley churned out there in the Gulf of Mexico. The preliminary forecast tracks had Charley coming through the Tampa Bay region and with it being a Category 3 storm, it had the potential of extensive damage. Pinellas County's Emergency Management officials took no chances and ordered the evacuation of persons residing in Evacuation Levels A and B - that's a lot of Pinellas County residents alone, and you got to factor in the mobile home residents who have to evacuate at any evacuation level.

Hurricane Charley got a lot of extensive media coverage, not only here in America but worldwide as well (even RTV Slovenia had coverage too!) Unfortunately, your blogmaster (and webmaster at EdwardRingwald.com and Interstate275Florida.com) had to evacuate and relocate to a hotel to ride out Charley; believe me, I was worried if the condo that I bought a few years earlier would hold up to Charley's devastating winds. Fortunately, Charley made a turn to the northeast sooner than expected and made landfall in the Port Charlotte-Punta Gorda area; when I watched the images of destruction on TV days after Charley hit I said to myself, what if Charley hit the Tampa/St. Petersburg area as originally forecasted? I was able to return home a few days after Charley passed.

The next year, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina took its toll on the New Orleans area with extensive damage, which is taking years to rebuild. I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Baltimore a couple of days after Katrina hit New Orleans; I was headed to Baltimore to do US Copyright Office business in Washington, DC when I registered the copyright on both EdwardRingwald.com and Interstate275Florida.com. I was inspired to register for copyright on both websites after an incident involving the principal of Springstead High School in Spring Hill, Florida (an hour north of Tampa on the Suncoast Parkway, FL Toll 589) when she took words from other sources and passed them off as her own and used it for a graduation speech. You can read more about it on my copyright topic at EdwardRingwald.com.

Then the next few years came the collapse of the real estate market and the credit crunch that followed. The news media was more than willing to write stories about the credit crunch in a manner that would scare the public. In fact, I have a related blog entry you can read here that explains how the news media is misleading and scaring the public about the credit crunch.

May I throw in something for a moment? I used to subscribe to The Tampa Tribune as an alternative to the St. Petersburg Times. Right after the credit crunch started, everything in The Tampa Tribune was stories about the credit crunch that were presented in a way to scare the public. I was so fed up of the Trib's scare tactic stories that I ended up cancelling my subscription. Now the St. Petersburg Times is intensifying the scare tactic stories not only on the credit crunch but on the real estate market as well. But print and electronic media's goal is this: Blood sells.

Well, this was the first decade of the new millenium in a nutshell. Of course there are a lot of other things that have happened but to describe them would take a very long blog entry.

As 2009 fades slowly into the sunset and the dawn of 2010 on the horizon, there's going to be a lot of you celebrating New Year's Eve. Some of you will celebrate at home like I do, but some of you will be out and about partying until the stroke of Midnight. If you are out and about for New Year's Eve, please designate a driver and if you drink, don't drive. I have posted a blog topic over at the Interstate 275 Florida Blog on New Years Eve and the dangers of drinking and driving, which you can read here.

One more thing: 2010 will mark the tenth anniversary of EdwardRingwald.com! My websites have come a long way from its early days since it started out as a class project for a college introductory Internet course. More on that later.

Onward with 2010!

15 December 2009

The Holidays are Upon Us

I know, the Christmas and New Years holiday season is already upon us. It's always the same ritual year after year: Crowded shopping malls, the constant sounds of Christmas music on the radio all the way up to Christmas Day, the countless Christmas parties both at home and at work, and - what you get in the mail from family and friends - Christmas cards.

You got that right. Christmas cards.

Back in the old days (even 10 years ago) we went to the gift shop and picked out a series of Christmas cards. You decided who got what and that was about it. Then came the most tedious task as far as Christmas cards are concerned, especially if you have so many: Addressing them by hand, sticking postage stamps on each card, and getting them to the Post Office as early as possible. After all, it's the holiday season and the US Postal Service is feverishly moving all that important holiday mail.

Well, we now got this revolutionary technological marvel which is the personal computer. We now have stuff like Windows, Word, Office, and Adobe PDF among other things, and we can't leave out a very important technological marvel which has shrunk our world even further: The Internet.

Which leads us to Christmas cards taken to a new level: The E-card. You got that right, the e-card.

The best thing about sending a Christmas e-card is that you don't have to worry about spending a lot of money on postage and worry whether the card will make it on time before Christmas. Besides, a Christmas e-card uses the Internet as its distribution medium rather than the traditional postal mail medium.

Additionally, sending a Christmas e-card saves on paper. That's good for the environment, especially in the going green era we live in.

While we're on the subject of Christmas, let's turn to another Christmas related topic if I can have your attention for just a few more minutes of your time. It is a topic which disturbs me, and that is the anti-Christmas sentiment that keeps growing in America year after year.

Andrew Dart (akdart.com) has a well done page on the anti-Christmas sentiment that is growing in America along with links to related articles on the Internet. To go to that page, simply click on this link.

However, there are other areas of increasing anti-Christmas sentiment which we hear about year after year. In December 2008 10 Connects (WTSP-TV, the CBS affiliate here in St. Petersburg) had a story on a woman in Panama City Beach (the Florida panhandle town, that is) who was fired for saying "Merry Christmas"; to add to the humiliation the employer called law enforcement and had the woman declared a second class citizen by having her trespassed from the premises.

(Did I mention trespassed? Sad but true: Florida's trespassing laws allow a person in authority such as a store manager or a security guard to ban a law abiding person from a place for life, no reason or rationale is needed. After all, trespass warnings in Florida are convictions for trespassing without the benefit of due process and trial. For more information on this please feel free to read my Florida Trespassing Laws White Paper, available at EdwardRingwald.com.)

Now here's another area which I would call anti-Christmas sentiment in the workplace. How many of you out there read the comics in the St. Petersburg Times? There was one comic strip that caught my attention which is Blondie and it consisted of two panels which is the norm for a weekday comic strip. In the 23 December 2004 Blondie comic strip one panel had a group of office workers celebrating an office Christmas party, while the next panel had the boss (who I believe was in an anti-Christmas mood) angrily yelled at the workers to "get back to work" in an intimidating manner.

After I saw this comic strip, I felt that the anti-Christmas sentiment was well represented. Add to that how the boss yelled at and intimidated his subordinates as seen in the strip. To most people, it might be humor as is the case with comic strips out there but to me, I feel this is bullying by the boss.

Now may I digress for just a moment? In my opinion, I feel the phrase "get back to work" is nothing more than a way for a boss to demoralize and treat his employees like if they were not important. Moreover, a boss who resorts to micromanagement as a way to motivate his employees and uses demeaning and abusive phrases in the workplace contributes to low employee morale and high turnover. In a nutshell, I feel the phrase "get back to work" is nothing more than a threat and it accomplishes no purpose other than to create a hostile work environment.

Back in 1986 and 1987 while I was going for my first Associates degree at St. Petersburg College (which was St. Petersburg Junior College back then), I took two management related classes, which were Human Factors in Supervision and Principles of Management. Believe me, it gave me an introduction to the world of management and the terminology that goes with it.

I just wanted to give you an example of the disturbing anti-Christmas trend that is increasingly going on year after year. Now that I had your attention I feel that it is more appropriate for the season to give you a Christmas card - this time, an e-card that I created myself rather than spend money on one. (After all, you have to spend money on Christmas cards whether it's a traditional card or an e-card).

To see my Christmas card, just click on this link! I hope you enjoy it!

And as they say in:

English: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Spanish (Espanol): Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!

Slovenian (Slovenscina): Vesel božič in srečno novo leto!

And I will say this once again: Merry Christmas!

12 December 2009

Tougher Standards for Florida IDs Coming on 1 January 2010

Link to article over at Bay News 9: Tougher standards for IDs go into effect Jan. 1.

We have heard about REAL ID for a few years and the Federal government's role in implementing REAL ID. It is coming to Florida come 1 January 2010 and it's going to mean different, if not difficult, ways in obtaining or renewing your Florida Drivers License. The new rules are supposed to enhance security of identity documents such as drivers licenses.

Now here's the lowdown on what to expect on 1 January 2010 when you go to obtain or renew your Florida drivers license. Here's what you are going to have to bring with you when you go to the drivers license office to obtain or renew your license:

1. Primary identification: A certified US birth certificate, a US Passport or a US Passport Card. For US citizens born outside the United States you will need the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (issued by the US Department of State) and it has to be a certified copy; however, if you have a US Passport that's better as it is absolute proof of United States citizenship. (After all, passports are easier to replace than birth certificates if they get lost for some reason).

2. Social Security Number: You will want to bring your original Social Security card; that's the best.

3. Two proofs of Florida residential address: The State of Florida wants proof that you actually live here in the Sunshine State to get or renew a Florida drivers license. Here is a partial list of the documents you will need to prove Florida residency according to the folks over at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles at their speciality site, GatherGoGet.com:

Residential deed or monthly mortgage statement
Residential lease
Florida Voter ID card (this is your Voter Information card)
Florida vehicle registration or title
A utility connection order (60 days old or less)
Homeowners, condo unit owners or renters insurance policy or bill
A utility bill 60 days old or less

Now what if you are living with someone else such as your parents? They will have to accompany you to the drivers license office, provide a statement and provide proof of residence address as shown above. If you are living in a transitional shelter a letter from the shelter verifying that you live there is required.

OK. Now that you have your required documents, you can proceed to the nearest Florida drivers license office and obtain or renew your drivers license. When you receive your drivers license, it will have, among other things as required by the federal REAL ID law, your residential street address printed on your license.

What? Invasion of privacy? What's going on here?

Here's a comment that I posted over at Bay News 9's Viewer Center on this article:

To me, Florida's new drivers license requirements in the name of REAL ID is very dangerous. Why? There are a lot of Floridians like myself who have a residential street address but have all mail sent to a post office box for security reasons. Florida's new requirement effective 1 January 2010 will require that the residential street address be listed on the drivers license.

What makes this so dangerous is that if let's say someone obtains a domestic violence restraining order and the person who obtained the restraining order somehow loses his or her drivers license with the residential street address on it. Bingo! The domestic violence perpetrator who is not supposed to even come within 500 feet of the street address now knows where you live! Furthermore, Florida's residential street address requirement for drivers licenses will also make it very easy for stalkers to find you - if somehow you lose your drivers license and the stalker finds it then - voila - it's a gold mine!

And I agree with everyone else: Our Florida drivers licenses are slowly being turned into national identity cards thanks to REAL ID; a drivers license is simply that - a license by the State of Florida to operate a motor vehicle and nothing more. After all, driving is a privilege and not a right. (Emphasis mine)

A residential street address on a voter ID card is fine, as it proves where you live and what polling place you have to go to. On a drivers license, it is a different matter as it is used as a primary identification card; I do have a residential street address but all my mail goes to a post office box for security reasons. Presenting it to a law enforcement officer (especially if you get pulled over) is very important; you're supposed to carry your drivers license with you when you are operating your motor vehicle in the very first place. On the other hand, presenting a drivers license with where you physically live to a total stranger for identification opens up Pandora's Box to unwanted invasion of your personal privacy; that's why so many Floridians such as me have a post office box for privacy and security reasons.

Moreover, despite the security precautions taken by Tallahassee to safeguard the data on Florida's drivers licenses, leaks of personal data have occurred. Moreover, the State of Florida has a habit of selling your name and residential street address information that is on your drivers license to third parties despite a Federal law that provides for confidentiality of driver license information. Here is a link to a post I found on the FlyerTalk.com forum which addresses this subject very well.

Until recently, you could get a Florida drivers license, prove your residential street address, and have your license with your mailing address on it. That has changed thanks to REAL ID. The only exception to this new rule is only law enforcement officers.

In a nutshell, I agree with making identity documents such as a drivers license more secure but I do not believe in trading privacy for security. This is something our federal and Florida lawmakers need to address.

Now for one more thing, if I may have your attention for just a moment.

At the end of my comment I made to Bay News 9, I mentioned that driving is a privilege, not a right. That is true: The State of Florida gave you the privilege to drive when you apply or renew your drivers license, and the State of Florida can take away that privilege if you accumulate too many points on your record or are convicted of something more serious such as DUI.

I was reading the comments that followed mine on the tougher standards for Florida IDs and I found a comment made by someone under the pseudonym Mighty Mouse. Please let me quote part of the comment that Mighty Mouse made about me:

...I've been making that very same point here for over 7 years now every time some "DUMBO" like Edward Reinwald comes here and post's "Driving is a privilege, not a right"...

Luckily, I contacted Bay News 9 about this and found out that Mighty Mouse's offensive comments were removed. As you will see, Mighty Mouse misspelled my name and then went ahead and called me something that was very offensive and demeaning. While constructive criticism is welcomed the use of language that is offensive and demeaning is not.

Bay News 9 allows anyone to post a comment to any of their stories on their web site without any form of user registration; however, this is not the case here at the Edward Ringwald Blog or the Interstate 275 Florida Blog. In order to post a comment to any entry I have on either blog there is a two step process; registration with a Google account for first timers and when you actually post a comment it is sent to me for moderation prior to allowing your comment to be seen. This is why I ask when you make a comment to please keep it clean and family friendly.

And as for Mighty Mouse's surly comment about me, I feel that he thinks driving is a right, not a privilege. This is untrue. The Florida drivers license you hold in your wallet is a privilege granted to you by the State of Florida, of which it can be taken away. This is emphasized in the Florida Driver's Handbook and again when you go into the drivers license office to apply for or renew your license.